Noted historians preserve Sumter's past

BY SAMMY WAY
Posted 8/19/18

Reflections focuses on five historians of Sumter County: Dr. Anne King Gregorie, Myrtis Osteen, Cassie Nicholes, Portia Myers and W. Ashby "Bubba" McElveen. Residents of the Sumter community owe these individuals a debt of gratitude for recording …

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Noted historians preserve Sumter's past

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Reflections focuses on five historians of Sumter County: Dr. Anne King Gregorie, Myrtis Osteen, Cassie Nicholes, Portia Myers and W. Ashby "Bubba" McElveen. Residents of the Sumter community owe these individuals a debt of gratitude for recording and preserving local history. Because of their efforts, the early development of Sumter and the accomplishments of its citizenry are remembered. This two-part article includes short biographical sketches and photos of each historian. The information and photos utilized were secured from The Sumter Item archives and the general public.

Dr. Anne King Gregorie, born May 20, 1887, in Savannah, Georgia, was the daughter of Ferdinand and Anne Palmer Porcher Gregorie. She graduated from Winthrop College, attended the University of California and later enrolled at the University of Wisconsin where she received a master's degree. Dr. Gregorie later earned a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina, becoming the state director of the Historical Records Survey conducted from 1936 to 1941. This position made her responsible for knowing and describing the history and function of every department of state and county government.

A library board created in Sumter had the expressed intent of recording the history of Sumter County and its inhabitants. The board was challenged to find an individual "qualified by experience in historical research and to enlist the interest of that person in the undertaking and completing this research. The choice fell upon Dr. Anne K. Gregorie, a curator of the South Carolina Historical Society, who had taught history at the University of South Carolina, Arkansas College and Alabama College. Trained in methods of historical research, she was selected because she authored the only full-length, factual biography of Gen. Thomas Sumter, based on several years' work chiefly in unpublished records; it was felt that she had already acquired good experience for work on the history of the county." The end result was The History of Sumter County, an account of the history of the county from "colonial times to the late 1940's." Dr. Gregorie was credited with other works including "Notes on the Sewannee Indians" and "Indian Remains of Christ Church Parish."

Dr. Gregorie died in a Charleston hospital in December of 1960, and funeral services were held at Christ Protestant Episcopal churchyard with the Rev. Michael Ollie officiating.

Myrtis Osteen

Guardian of Sumter's historical records

Mrs. Osteen, born in Colleton County, was the daughter of Harry and Phamie Carter Ginn. She spent the majority of her life in Sumter County. She died Sept. 12, 1990, at Richland Memorial Hospital at the age of 80. She married Heyward W. Osteen and became "well known as a leader in local historical circles." According to several Sumterites, she was an outspoken proponent of the preservation of Sumter County's history. Robert Moses, who met Mrs. Osteen in 1945, remembers her as an "extra modest person who never wanted to take the limelight." According to Sherman Smith and Kay Teer, "there was no project too large or too menial for her." After retiring from the National Bank of South Carolina, Mrs. Osteen was named Sumter County historian in 1988. "She was a charter member of the Sumter County Historical Society, a life member of the Society Board and the Sumter County Historical Commission." Her efforts were instrumental in founding the Professional Women's Club in 1952. Several Historical Society members noted that "books pertaining to Sumter's history will be kind to her because she made them possible."